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Why Reading Multiple Books at Once May Harm Your Writing

Updated on December 2, 2011

Fond of Reading?

Reading is probably one of the best ways to strengthen one’s writing. This is not a little-known fact, and most writers are also avid readers. For those who are aspiring to make a career out of writing, you probably have a list of favorite books and authors that you find yourself drawn to. Maybe you try to adapt the style of your favorite writer, or find inspiration in the pages of their novels. I know I do. But one thing I (and I’m sure many others) have learned is that no matter how spectacular your writing style is, no matter how perfect your grammar or how wonderful your story, there’s not much to be proud of if you just can’t seem to get the words out.

Now, this is not a three-step guide to conquering that terrible ailment known as Writer's Block, nor is it a guaranteed cure-all for everyone who encounters obstacles in the writing process. However, if you are a writer or are aspiring to be one, and if you enjoy reading more than one book at a time, this may be of interest to you.

Don't Confuse Yourself!

Not everyone who reads two or three or seven books at once has trouble crafting stories and putting them on paper. But for the multi-book readers who do find it difficult to tell their tales, consider this: when you read several books at once, you are following several plots at once. You are in several worlds at once, you are becoming intimate with several characters at once, you are dealing with several conflicts at once, and (whether you realize it or not) you are confusing your brain.

Reading as little as two books at once can cause people to unconsciously cross stories and confuse elements from the different pieces. It becomes difficult to keep everything straight, and this can very easily carry over into your writing. Even if you are able to separate what happens in which book, you have trained your brain to think in a sporadic pattern. When you jump from book to book, your brain jumps with you and does not want to stay focused on any one piece. This may explain why it’s so difficult to actually get that story down, even though you’ve got it completely figured out in your head. You might not be able to keep it straight. Your brain might jump around on you, even when you tell it to sit still and focus. It’s not going to want to obey, kind of like that new puppy that’s discovered how great a chew toy your shoes are. Or that cat that has a fondness for substituting the carpet in your hallway for the litter box, if you’re not really a dog person.

If you’re someone who writes several stories at once, this is the perfect state to have your brain in. You can shift from story to story and not worry about crossing plotlines or switching characters, and you might not run into the dreaded Writer’s Block. But if you’re trying to focus on one particular piece, you might consider doing the same as a reader and not just as a writer.


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    • krissalus profile image

      krissalus 7 years ago

      Lynn: Things like this definitely vary from person to person, but it's great that you found a way to clear your head when you get stuck. I have a friend who has noticed that when she writes a character who has no respect for authority, that character tends to not want to respect HER authority and takes her in places she never thought she would go. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but then again, some control is probably a good thing to have. Some of the time, at least. Also, music is another one of those things that either throws people off or does not. Different people have different experiences with it. I know personally I cannot write with music playing. I end up finding myself singing along to it (hopefully with no one in earshot) and when the song's over, I realize that I have a great deal less written than I had wanted. Although, I must say, the thought of an otherworld story having a country western theme song does make me laugh, and I can only wonder what something like that would be if purposefully written.

      ACSutliff: It's funny how things like that can effect us without use even realizing it. That being said, I'm very glad you found this useful, and good luck with your novel!

    • ACSutliff profile image

      ACSutliff 7 years ago


      You make a very valid point. I have been struggling to finish a novel for a long time, meanwhile reading many many books (though usually one at a time). The books I was reading were somehow making me backtrack when I should have been moving forward. I'm glad that I know the reason why now. Thanks!

    • Lynn Nodima profile image

      Lynn Nodima 7 years ago from United States

      I never thought about this. I tend to write short stories as relief to writing novels, which can become quite tedious at times--especially if the plot is giving you trouble. My characters sometimes try to take over and move in the wrong directions. Writing a short story seems to clear my head a bit. However, I find that I cannot read much while I am writing. I also have to be careful about listening to music while writing, or reference to the story I am reading or music I am hearing will pop into my writing. Not a problem, if it fits with the plot, but country western music doesn't seem to fit well with otherworld stories.